NORFOLK, NE - “She was unwilling to give up.” That’s how Tim Young, HELP (Health Education Laddering Program) success coach, described Samantha Finecy’s time at Northeast Community College. Finecy, Columbus, graduated in May with an associate degree in nursing, and was enrolled in the College’s Project HELP program.
Project HELP assists income-eligible students with education, training and services as they pursue an education in the healthcare field. Services provided by Project HELP include scholarships, laptop checkout, scrubs, stethoscopes, gas cards, resume and job search assistance, plus a monthly guidance meeting with a success coach.
At Northeast, 72 students currently participate in Project HELP. Fifty-three have enrolled in either short- or long-term healthcare training, and the remaining are enrolled in pre-requisites to healthcare programs. The program conducts approximately 45 intakes each year at Northeast. Eligible applicants are randomly selected by lottery to participate.
Finecy’s Project HELP journey began at Central Community College in Columbus. She had attended Central shortly after high school, earning an associate of applied science degree, and began her practical nursing education there in Spring of 2013. Around this time, Finecy learned she could no longer live with her mother because it would disqualify her mother from housing assistance benefits.
“I was homeless.”
That’s when Project HELP stepped in. At Central, Samantha worked with Success Coach CoLynn Paprocki to qualify for the program. For the next eighteen months, Samantha received the help she needed, from scholarships and school supplies to job search assistance after graduation.
Finecy enrolled in the associate degree in nursing program at Northeast in Fall 2017.
“Northeast has always been on the horizon for me,” Finecy said. She was drawn to its high pass rate, which has consistently above state and national averages in its registered nursing and practical nursing programs.
Finecy assumed she would no longer be a part of Project HELP once she began at Northeast. But Paprocki connected her with Young, HELP success coach at Northeast, who informed her she could still participate in Project HELP.
“I was scared when I started at Northeast. How am I going to do this? How am I going to pay for it? How am I going to pay for gas to get there? How am I going to pay for everything? It was a lot lifted off my shoulders when I realized I still qualified for Project HELP. It helped me before to get where I wanted to be, and it sure enough helped again. I can’t thank them enough.”
The journey hasn’t been easy for Finecy. She said she had to overcome ear issues in childhood, which involved numerous trips to the hospital, and also overcame a learning disability to earn her degree.
Additionally, her mother faces a number of mental health challenges, and in the past, Finecy would cook, clean and do laundry for her. Even now, she helps her mother manage her money, pay her bills and ensure food is in the house. She checks in with her mother every day.
“I could hold it against her, but I don’t. I love her no matter what because she’s the one who raised me.”
Young said Finecy’s compassion for her mother is reflected in her work as a nurse.
“Samantha’s very passionate about what she does; she cares. Being a nurse is where she needs to be. We’ve talked about barriers that she’s had in her life. She’s always pushed to drive through and pursue what she wanted.”
Finecy is currently employed at Butler County Health Care Center, a critical access hospital in David City, as a registered nurse. She said that while her job requires she fill a variety of roles, she’s most interested in the obstetrics department.
“I love working with mothers and newborns, and I like the process of labor and delivery, bringing a newborn child into the world. It’s completely amazing.”
Over 1,900 students are enrolled in Project HELP in Nebraska, which is available at Northeast and three other state community colleges. The program is one of 32 Health Professions Opportunity Grants (HPOG) grantees across 21 states. HPOG is overseen by the Office of Family Assistance, a subdivision of Health and Human Services.
Healthcare trainings covered by Project HELP at Northeast include nursing assistant, medication aide, physical therapist assistant, health information management systems, paramedic, emergency medical technician, and nursing, as well as pre-professional programs in medical assisting, surgical technology and physical therapist assistant.
For more information about Project HELP at Northeast Community College, contact Young at (402) 844-7461, or Gina Clyde, HELP grant career coach/recruiter, at (402) 844-7460.
This document was supported by Grant 90FX0040 from the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of HHS.
Samantha Finecy, Columbus, receives her associate degree in nursing pin from her husband, Tyler, during the Nurse Pinning Ceremony at Northeast Community College recently.